Are adaptogenic herbs the new kale?
-Aug 15, Emma Wilder, Health -
Adaptogens are everywhere right now and seem set to topple kale as everyone’s favourite ingredient. But for anyone not in the know, this brand-new wellness trend leaves a lot left unexplained…
From beauty counters to juice bars, adaptogens are becoming more and more popular with wellness gurus. But what are adaptogens?
Put simply, adaptogens are all natural, non-toxic plants that, in traditional medical practice, are said to help your body handle stressors of all kinds and bring the body back into balance.
Adaptogenic herbs have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic practice but have only recently come into their own in the present wellbeing market. From family concerns to work stress, adaptogens are said to help your body adapt to the pressures of life.
Here’s a quick guide to all the good our favourite five adaptogens can do:
In the wellness world, panax ginseng is known for its vitality-boosting properties, helping us to feel more alert and active. In traditional medicine, this root is said to help the body to resist the negative effects of stress and ageing. Researchers from the University of Naples found that ginseng’s benefits stem from its effect on the hypothalamic, adrenal and pituitary systems, which are the systems that control the production and release of stress hormones.
The benefits of turmeric are often pinpointed to one essential component – curcumin. Believed in Ayurveda to promote healthy skin and healthy liver function, turmeric is an essential in traditional medicine. Research published in the Journal of Natural Medicines found that turmeric, and curcumin in particular, is instrumental in reducing the stress hormones in the body that can lead to weight gain, memory loss and irregular blood glucose levels.
Sometimes known as the Indian gooseberry, amla is a very popular adaptogen in Ayurveda. Believed to promote youthfulness, life and good memory, it’s no wonder this fruit made it onto our list. The science behind amla (which is also known as amalaki or “mother”) suggests that this nourishing herb has antioxidant properties, helping to fight free radicals, the environmental stressors that can cause premature ageing.
This Peruvian root is believed to address hormonal imbalance in men and women, with traditional medicine using it as an aphrodisiac as well as a more general nutrient-rich tonic. As there are eight different varieties of maca out there, the jury is still out on exactly how much this root can do. What we do know is that, whatever the variety, maca is a good source of calcium, vitamin C, amino acids and phytonutrients. It has also been reported to relieve tension and anxiety and as well boosting mood.
Another Ayurvedic herb used to support a healthy hormone balance, ashwagandha is often used as a fertility tonic, as well as an immune-booster. Again, with double-blind and placebo-controlled trials investigating this traditional medicine, the scientific support is for ashwagandha is mounting. This 2012 study in the US witnessed reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol in those who took the herb for 60 days, compared to those who hadn’t. As the most studied adaptogen, there is a vast volume of research exploring how ashwagandha could benefit our health in other ways. We’ll be digging deeper into past and present investigations to keep you up to speed on what the scientific community is saying.
This article is intended as a guide to adaptogens and is in no way meant as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always visit your doctor or a qualified medical professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a health condition.